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Stossel: War on Electric Scooters

Cities limit electric scooters with needless regulations.

If you live in one of 65 U.S. cities, you've probably seen electric scooters.

To unlock one, you just use an app on your phone. It costs one dollar to unlock and 15-cents a minute after that. You go where you need to go, and then just leave the scooter anywhere. The scooter stays there until someone else rents it. It has a GPS which allows riders to locate them and prevents theft.

John Stossel tested one in Washington, D.C. He wonders if this is the next revolution in urban travel.

Jennifer Skees, who studies technology policy at the Mercatus Center, calls the scooters "a new twist on old technology...something that works even better, to solve needs in dense urban areas."

Yet some cities have banned electric scooters. San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said they endanger "public health and safety." Skees calls that ironic "because San Francisco always seems to be clamoring for more transportation options...complaining about the traffic and asking for green transportation."

What about safety? A man reportedly died after falling off a scooter and reckless scooter riders have injured pedestrians. Skees answers, "we actually haven't seen a large number of accidents or injuries...we don't ban bicycles because somebody might get hurt on a bicycle."

The scooters anger lots of people. Some complain about safety risks—others despise them as a symbol of techie gentrification. Videos show people throwing scooters into the ocean and setting scooters on fire.

But Maggie Gendron, director of strategic development at the scooter-sharing company Lime, tells Stossel, "it's a low percentage of vandalism...[in one city] 10,000 rides and 18 vandalism complaints."

Some cities are starting to welcome the scooters. San Francisco recently lifted its ban, granting permits to two small companies but rejecting permits to 10 companies including Lime and Bird. Washington, D.C., Austin, Seattle, and about 62 other cities have active scooter-sharing now.

Stossel says, as often happens, entrepreneurs invented something great. He wonders how many cities will impose destructive regulation.

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The views expressed in this video are solely those of John Stossel; his independent production company, Stossel Productions; and the people he interviews. The claims and opinions set forth in the video and accompanying text are not necessarily those of Reason.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    "Too popular to ban."

    There's no such thing.

  • operagost||

    Case in point: alcohol.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Case in point: prostitution.

  • NoVaNick||

    Electric scooters, electric bikes, electronic cigarettes, soon electric cars too (don't be fooled-they don't want those either). The future is electric they say, but progs don't really want that, or they will run out of things to complain about and might be out of a job.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Exactly. The process for regulating scooters should take a minute. Register the company with the Secretary of State and collect a tiny tax or something for roads and that be it.

    These City councils want to keep their legions of bureaucrats employed with mounds of paperwork and endless wrangling over licensing and heavy regulation.

    Maybe someday, tech companies employees will side with Libertarians and Republicans who are more pro-business than Democrats will ever be.

  • Teddy Pump||

    The regs should include something also about following certain traffic rules like bikes.

  • Ron||

    California just signed law to go all electric which is odd since to get a house to comply with all electric is extremely difficult and of course electric cars limits people range of free travel. I'm sure they think those are features not bugs

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Good. They wont be able to leave California in the electric cars and they wont be able to use internet at night.

    win-win-win

  • The Last American Hero||

    Can Nevada just turn off the spigot?

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    What kind of a person do you have to be to want to be on a municipal council? It seems to attract the worst kinds of busybodies that have nothing better to do than to make life miserable for other people.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Funny, that kid who is in the family who picks up scooters to charge them, said that he "tries to invest the money".

    Lefty heads exploded on that one.

  • Cathy L||

    The scooters anger lots of people. Some complain about safety risks—others despise them as a symbol of techie gentrification.

    And others despise them because they are trash littering the sidewalk.

  • Longtobefree||

    Well, it is not like the government does no know who the last renter was, and can charge them with littering, obstructing traffic, or whatever.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Some people would step over/around scooters than bums who are littering the sidewalks.

  • Ron||

    Yea San Fran has more bums laying about than scooters. could imagine the grossness of running a scooter through their literal shit and it splattering all over your work cloths.

  • Jerry B.||

    Might be difficult in a wheelchair, depending on where the scooters, or dockless bikes, are.

  • BLPoG||

    This comment really strikes home with me. I go to work every day in *exactly* the area that Stossel shot the video. The scooters are a significant nuisance, IMO. They are discarded in the middle of the sidewalk and they present obstructions/obstacles. I find it doubly frustrating because I know that they are delivering a useful service to some consumers.

    At the same time, that location is filled with many more obstacles in the form of aggressive panhandlers/homeless/mentally disturbed/altered-state individuals (I'm talking about the sort of people that will reach and and grab you). In my estimation it is the *single worst spot for this in DC.* Part of the frustration with the scooters stems from the fact that the vagrant contingent already occupies so much sidewalk real estate. Ultimately though, my sentiment is that I would rather deal with the scooters than people who shout at/grab at me every day. The idea that the scooters are a uniquely bad nuisance is ridiculous.

  • CDRSchafer||

    DC is an absolute zoo. If the federal government pulled out, within a year it would be Camden, NJ. All the local politicians are incompetent scum.

  • BLPoG||

    This comment really strikes home with me. I go to work every day in *exactly* the area that Stossel shot the video. The scooters are a significant nuisance, IMO. They are discarded in the middle of the sidewalk and they present obstructions/obstacles. I find it doubly frustrating because I know that they are delivering a useful service to some consumers.

    At the same time, that location is filled with many more obstacles in the form of aggressive panhandlers/homeless/mentally disturbed/altered-state individuals (I'm talking about the sort of people that will reach and and grab you). In my estimation it is the *single worst spot for this in DC.* Part of the frustration with the scooters stems from the fact that the vagrant contingent already occupies so much sidewalk real estate. Ultimately though, my sentiment is that I would rather deal with the scooters than people who shout at/grab at me every day. The idea that the scooters are a uniquely bad nuisance is ridiculous.

  • Mark22||

    And others despise them because they are trash littering the sidewalk.

    Same reason people despise you?

  • Sevo||

    Cathy L|9.11.18 @ 10:30AM|#
    "And others despise them because they are trash littering the sidewalk."

    Dimbulbs with names beginning in "C" are too stupid to know what "trash" is.

  • mpercy||

    Really? People leave them on the sidewalks in SF? Don't they get covered in shit that way?

  • Tionico||

    Pronominal antecedent for the word "they"?

    Do you mean the scooters or the eedjits that despise them comprising the trash on the sidewalks?

  • JFree||

    That is entirely on cities. They allocate a ton of land to on-street parking. Nothing to bikes or scooters or any other personal-sized transport. Easiest way to provide that parking and also clear sight-lines at intersections is to set aside one or two vehicle spaces closest to every corner as parking for the personal transport - bike racks, rental space for docks/etc. Easy to separate that from vehicle parking with bollards or planters or a bulbout curb if there is a ped/bike crossing (which shouldn't be at intersections anyway).

    American cities are not remotely serious about even thinking about anything beyond cars and mass transit

  • JoeBlow123||

    Yeah there is no way people would actually return these bikes and scooters to those areas.

    I will be honest, I do not like these scooters. They are thrown around everywhere and people drive them like total jackasses, ignoring any and all traffic norms. It makes driving in dense urban areas interesting, I can tell you that.

  • JFree||

    Maybe not. But I don't find rental cars littering up the sidewalks or abandoned in the middle of road. If there are places to park the vehicle, they will be parked there. And by 'places' I mean all over the place. Drive in any city - and you will see parking at the side of most every road for the entirety of the street - and where it isn't there, it is clearly marked as to what drivers should do. It is completely unlike say bike/etc infrastructure because IT ACTUALLY EXISTS. It's no wonder that everyone drives. That's the only infrastructure that exists. Even sidewalks are spotty infrastructure with no clear right-of-way and cars continually crossing that and not yielding even to peds

  • Longtobefree||

    Define hypocrisy: Giving a bazillion dollars to 'green' companies owned by friends, and denying individuals the right to use vehicles that are as green as you can get.

    They would be better off to go after the scooters because they are not ADA compliant. They should force the companies to send electric cars to carry the disabled to and from anywhere they want to go.

    The real point is to discourage individual freedom, and corporate initiative. If a city had come up with this idea, and bought the scooters for twice the price, and required registration with the city and a background check to rent them, and applied a huge subsidy to the rental rate, 'funded' by a new tax on something, the left would be all over this 'brave new experiment'.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    This innovation cuts into public transportation revenue.

    Always follow the money.

    if that's not the reason, follow the politics.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    City officials are not substantially any different from mafia bosses. "Youse guys wanna do bizness in dis town, ya gotta see me. And of course dere's a 'handling fee'."

  • JoeBlow123||

    "The real point is to discourage individual freedom, and corporate initiative."

    Not true. The biggest issue is they are thrown all over the streets everywhere with no regard for keeping them out of walking lanes or out of doorways or where people walk. It is annoying to the (majority) of people who just want to walk around and no be hassled by these things.

    I seriously would not care about these things if they were stored by Americans in some semi-rational location like against a wall and not in the middle of the sidewalk where I was walking. But Americans being Americans (especially the types of people who live in cities), they give zero craps about courtesy so they throw them everywhere.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    It seems to me that whatever negatives you can have with scooters, those same negatives apply to bicycles.

  • Ron||

    also roller blades and unicycles and cars and just stepping off the curb may trip you up.

  • Shirley Knott||

    OMG — you mean it's trade-offs all the way around and down?
    Whoda thunk it?

  • JoeBlow123||

    How many peoples personal bicycles do you see thrown all over any random sidewalk?

  • Mark22||

    San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said they endanger "public health and safety." tax revenues and public sector union jobs.

    FTFY

    Just have the scooters maintained, repaired, and driven around by city employees and Dennis Herrera will love them instantly. Even better if you pass a law that they must be picked up and inspected after every ride by city employees "for the children".

  • Rockabilly||

    Progs love to tax and regulate.

    That's why they support the re-legalization of marijuana with the stipulation that it be taxed and regulated.

    It's not the marijuana that turns them on, it the taxing and regulating.

  • CDRSchafer||

    Progs should be forced to wear a bell collar that warns people when they get near so innocent people can either run or get the firearms ready.

  • Eman||

    A cant tellif the scooter complements the moustache or contrasts with it, but they cast each other in an intriguing light.

  • mpercy||

    "Too popular to ban."

    Like AR-15s?

  • Tionico||

    Nannies wanna nannie.

    Next election turn the ones who oppose them out of office and replace with some who have functioning brains within their crania........

  • DarrenM||

    So, what happens when you run a scooter through a pile of human feces someone left on the sidewalk in S.F.? I suppose it's better than stepping in it.

  • Ivan van Ogre||

    "We actually haven't seen too many accidents with these scooters." That's because they're NEW. Wouldn't it be wiser to look ahead and prevent a few terrible injuries from happening in the first place? One of those people saved from being hurt might even be YOU, or someone you love.

    They are being driven and dumped all over the sidewalks. When they are driven on the sidewalks (and they always are) they become a real danger. Imagine being hit by someones entire body traveling at 15-20 mph. This is a recipe for serious injury. When you step out into the street you look both ways out of habit. When you step out of some shop you don't. You'll never see it coming until you wind up in the ER.

    The second problem is that, just as the article said, People just leave the scooters anywhere they feel like, and human nature being what it is they wind up blocking people's way, and a lot of these people are handicapped and elderly.

    The solution to all of this? They need to be docked.

    Yes, this would cut into profits but docking is the right thing to do. When faced with the choice of doing the right thing or doing the profitable thing Bird et al made their choice. Pedestrian safety (docking) cuts into profits. So screw the pedestrian.

    The core of the problem is that the need to be OFF the sidewalks, entirely. No driving on the sidewalks, no dumping on the sidewalks.

    Docking them, which would cut into profits for the sake of safety, would solve the problem.

  • Echospinner||

    I agree with that. The sidewalk is a shared space. The scooters are fine if that is what people want and it is not just a fad. We have seen those before. If there are enough of them a safer option is needed. Bicycles and pedestrians can barely co exist on the same little strip of concrete. I do not think just dumping them anywhere is a good idea.

  • operagost||

    Do they really go 15 MPH?

  • Echospinner||

    Downhill

  • JoeBlow123||

    They most definitely go 15mph. They are pretty darn fast.

  • Richard Stallman||

    Because the scooters identify riders and track them, they constitute another system of massive surveillance -- dangerous to a free society, like other systems of massive surveillance. See https://goo.gl/QBKTx6.

    I would consider using them if I could do so anonymously, paying either with cash or with GNU Taler (taler.net).

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